An overview of the different types of insurance claims in Virginia
All motor vehicle accidents are unique and every person injured in an auto accident has a different set of challenges to overcome in the aftermath of a collision. As personal injury attorneys, we understand that every case is different and recognize that each client requires individual attention. While a general summary of insurance claims or coverage can never be applied across the board, it is important to understand that multiple claims may arise from a single motor vehicle accident. The following summary provides a brief explanation of what these claims may be and the insurance coverage that may apply to a particular accident.
1. Property Damage Claims:
Damage to a person’s property, most often their car, may be handled under the liability portion of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If a claim is handled in this manner, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier will pay for the repair of the vehicle or issue a check to compensate the owner for the present value of the vehicle at the time of the collision if the car is deemed to be a total loss.
Damage to the at-fault driver’s vehicle may be handled under the collision portion of that driver’s policy. Typically, collision coverage carries a deductible that the at-fault driver must pay before their insurance carrier will cover the remainder of the repairs. Importantly, collision coverage is not required in Virginia. If a driver does not purchase this coverage and is responsible for causing an accident, their insurance carrier is not responsible for paying for the repair.
If the person who caused the accident does not have collision coverage, damage done to other people’s vehicles may be handled under the uninsured motorist property damage coverage of the other driver’s policy. In this situation, the insurance carrier for the person who is not at-fault in would assume responsibility for paying for the damage.
2. Bodily Injury Claims:
In Virginia, bodily injury claims seek the recovery of medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering and inconvenience. They may be handled under the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage. The insurance carrier for the person who caused the accident is required to compensate the other injured parties for reasonable and related medical expenses, lost wages, bodily injuries, physical pain, mental anguish and inconvenience caused by the collision. The limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy govern the maximum amount their insurance carrier is required to pay to each person injured and the total amount their insurance carrier is required to pay for each accident.
If the at-fault driver is uninsured, such claims may be handled under a person’s own uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Although these people were not at fault in causing the collision, if there is no liability insurance policy covering the responsible person, the insurance carrier may step into the shoes of the at-fault driver’s liability carrier and pay for the damages resulting from the crash. Maintaining up-to-date insurance that affords “UM” coverage can be the only source of compensation if someone is injured by and uninsured driver.
In situations where a person’s “UM” coverage is greater than the at-fault driver’s liability coverage and the damages exceed the limits of liability coverage, an injured person may also make a claim under their own policy for the difference. This is known as an underinsured motorist (“UIM”) claim. Based on individual facts and circumstances, there may be more than one policy that provides UM or UIM coverage to a person injured in a motor vehicle accident.
3. Medical Expense Benefits Claims:
Medical expense benefits coverage, sometimes called “med pay,” is optional coverage in Virginia that is available to pay the medical expenses of a covered injured person up to the policy limits. A ‘med pay’ claim, when available, may be made in addition to an injury claim made under liability, UM and/or UIM coverage. Under Virginia law, a ‘med pay’ insurer may not subsequently recover its payments from a person’s liability claim  In the world of personal injury we call this a collateral source of recovery because it may provide an additional source of compensation for medical expenses incurred in a collision.
4. Worker’s Compensation Claims:
If a person is injured by a third party while that person is within the course and scope of their employment, they may be eligible to make a claim under their employer’s worker’s compensation insurance. When a person receives both worker’s compensation coverage and payment from a liability insurance carrier, the worker’s compensation carrier is entitled to recover the amount of money it paid to the injured person, less an allowance for attorneys fees and costs. Neither the author nor the firm of Allen and Allen practice worker’s compensation law.
All of these claims may have different timeframes within which they must be brought. For example, while a claim for personal injuries is often subject to a two year statute of limitations, a claim for property damage is generally subject to a five year statute of limitations.
If you or someone you know is injured in a motor vehicle collision it is important to understand that there may be many separate claims available. These multiple claims can be complicated and confusing. Consulting with an attorney who will review all the facts and circumstances of the case, look for all available insurance coverage and who knows the law governing recovery can be vital in protecting full and fair recovery.
About the Author: Dave Douthit is a personal injury attorney at the Richmond Office of Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen. Dave is experienced in handling personal injury cases ranging from bike accidents to car accidents to premises liability.
 See Virginia Code section 38.2-2209 available at: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+38.2-2209 .